Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Andrea Harris, Joint Chair at Guernsey Raiders about her role at the club and the unique position the club finds itself in regarding COVID-19. We look at things affecting community and commercial aspects of the club.
A little about you… Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m an Aussie expat whose work brought me to Guernsey for 2 years, and 8 years later I’ve settled here for the long term. I’m from Adelaide, which is an AFL / “Aussie Rules” city, and I hadn’t really heard of rugby union before I landed here.
One of the first friends I made after relocating to Guernsey was playing for the Ladies rugby team and after resisting her requests for about 18 months, I gave into peer pressure and started playing.
What is your role at Guernsey Raiders?
Shortly after I started playing, I was asked to join the Committee as Treasurer, which is a role I undertook, before being named as Vice Chairman for the 2019/20 season.
Currently I am Joint Chair with Charles McHugh, and I hope that for the 2021/22 season, I will be voted as Chair of the Club for three years.
Can you explain the role Guernsey Raiders plays within the community?
We are a true community club – we start involving children as Academy Tots, and run right through age grade rugby, to Colts, and then senior Ladies and Men’s teams. We are a club where everyone is welcome to come and “have a go”, or come and watch some live sport in a comfortable and friendly environment. With the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, it has reinforced how much the Guernsey community enjoy coming to the clubhouse and to watch the Raiders play, and we want to ensure we can continue that enjoyment for players, supporters and members throughout our community.
What recent community projects have Guernsey Raiders been involved with?
Just prior to lockdown in March, several of the Raiders’ senior squads (men’s and ladies) helped raise awareness for the Guernsey Isolation Support Group, by distributing leaflets to businesses around the island. The Support Group was set up to help ensure that necessities found their way to those most vulnerable and in need at a time of heightened uncertainty and concern for all islanders. The Raiders also arranged for Easter treats to be delivered to the staff at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in recognition of their hard work and our appreciation for their efforts during such uncertain times.
Once lockdown restrictions were lifted, the Raiders’ senior squads also helped raise money for the Social Investment Fund by attending events and locations around the island to sell “Guernsey Together” pins which were really well received.
Guernsey Raiders boast a long list of partners and sponsors. Can you let us into what your club’s relationship is like with them?
Our sponsors are our lifeline. We are lucky enough to have support from many local businesses, and from some global businesses with a local presence. We enjoy hosting our sponsors and their guests at regular pre-match luncheons in our clubhouse, and there is always an opportunity for the sponsors to interact with the players after matches. We keep our sponsors regularly updated with what’s happening at the clubhouse.
Guernsey Raiders are in a slightly different position to many other clubs regarding Covid-19 because of Guernsey’s different restrictions. How has Covid-19 impacted your club commercially and within the community?
The worldwide pandemic has hit every organisation, rugby club or otherwise, far and wide. In Guernsey, our government moved quickly to implement a strict 14-day isolation requirement for any passengers arriving from outside our Bailiwick. As a result, since June, we have enjoyed a freedom of life that seems a faraway dream to others at the moment, even 6 months later.
We were concerned that we may be at a disadvantage because of this isolation policy when considering playing in the UK leagues in the 2020/21 season, however the RFU then cancelled the leagues for the rest of the season. The isolation requirement currently remains in place.
With sponsorship, bar takings and membership our greatest revenue sources, we wanted to give something back to our wide network of supporters and we were able to host a Chairman’s Select test match series within our Raiders Men’s squad, where they were split into two teams, and played a 3 match series.
The Ladies have also played a three-match series with the including 10s and a match between our current players and Ladies Vets – a first for Guernsey and a fixture it is hoped will be repeated in the future.
The governments of Guernsey and the Isle of Man reached agreement whereby an “air bridge” was formed to enable people to fly directly between the islands.
As a result, our men hosted the Isle of Man’s Douglas team, our Ladies travelled to Douglas to take on the Vagabond Ladies, and some of our academy teams travelled to play in a rugby festival day in Douglas.
We were also lucky enough to host some matches between our Colts and a team from King Edward College by utilising this air bridge.
Of course, the financial impact has been large. We have been successful in obtaining a grant from the Social Investment Fund’s Covid 19 Community Charity Appeal, and are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our sponsors who have continued to support us during these uncertain times.
And finally, as an overview what does the future look like for Guernsey Raiders?
In a word – bright! We have a thriving Academy with over 350 children playing rugby from Tots up to Colts each week, and a player pathway has been developed that feeds into both our Men’s and Ladies’ squads.
Each year we see more and more “locals” debuting in the green and white hoops for the senior teams, which is testament to the hard work of our DOR, RDO, CRCs, and volunteer coaches across all age levels.
With the Men being promoted to National 2, and the Ladies consolidating in National Challenge 1, we are very keen to see the start of the 2021/22 season, and hope that our hard work throughout a very testing “year off” will pay off on the pitch.
This article appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Rugby Blindside magazine – Read the full issue here